When you think of Phoenix Coyotes star defenseman, Keith Yandle might be the first person – if any – who comes to mind. Budding phenom Oliver Ekman-Larsson is gaining on him (and other young standouts*), but sometimes lessons come tough and the Los Angeles Kings’ big guns humbled him quite a bit in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Ekman-Larsson didn’t beat around the bush when Dan Rosen asked him about that performance, either.
“I was terrible,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I didn’t skate good or with the puck very well. I made some bad passes. I have to be more physical and play more with the puck. I have to make better plays and skate harder.”
Ekman-Larsson was a -3 in Game 1, although one of those minuses came on an empty-netter. Rosen assessed an “oh no” game for the man many conveniently call OEL.
Ekman-Larsson was a minus-3 over his 24-plus minutes of ice time, though one of those came when he was on the ice for Dwight King’s empty-net goal. He got caught too high in the neutral zone when Slava Voynov found Dustin Brown with a stretch pass that led to the winning goal. And with the Coyotes just getting going on a power play midway through the third, Ekman-Larsson was called for interference on Mike Richards.
To be fair to Ekman-Larsson, interfering with Richards likely saved a dangerous shorthanded chance for Richards, one of the league’s lethal PK scoring threats alongside Brown. That might be one area where OEL could make or break the series: adjusting to one of the most dangerous shorthanded units in recent memory. Richards and Brown headline a group that is just about as offensively imposing (production-wise) as the Kings’ dicey PP unit.
Either way, the 20-year-old defenseman is mature enough to own up to a bad game. Now we’ll see if he has the skills and savvy to do something about it.
* – He’s been compared to Erik Karlsson and it’s not as crazy as that might sound.